When I was 11 years old I went to the theater to see “Clash of the Titans”. It was in early 1981. But “Clash of the Titans” was not the only movie with creatures and effects of Ray Harryhausen I saw. In my childhood in the 70s, I watched almost all of his films, such as “Sinbad and The Eye Of The Tiger”, “First Men on the Moon,” “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Today I am very sad because Ray Harryhausen left us this Tuesday. Rest in peace, Master.
29 June 1920 – 7 May 2013
Way before movies like “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” inspired the imagination of film lovers everywhere, audiences were enraptured by the sword-wielding skeletons of “Jason and the Argonauts”, the great ape of “Mighty Joe Young” and the dinosaurs opposite Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C”. The man responsible for all those and much more, Hollywood special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, died Tuesday in London at the age of 92.
Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen was born 29 June 1920. He was an American visual effects creator, writer and producer who lived in London from 1960 until his death, and is best known for the creation of stop-motion model animation called “Dynamation”. The legendary effects wizard’s influence was felt both in his sci-fi and fantasy movies as well as in the works of later filmmakers such as George Lucas and Peter Jackson. Beginning his career in the 1940s, Harryhausen became well known for using stop-motion model animation and having them interact with actors in a live-action world.
ONCE UPON A TIME A MAN WHO LIKED TO CREATE MONSTERS…
Born in Los Angeles, Harryhausen first became inspired as a 13-year-old watching Willis H. O’Brien’s large beast of “King King” come alive via stop-motion photography in 1933. The young Harryhausen would then work with O’Brien as a technician on “Mighty Joe Young” (1949) before his breakthrough 10 years later with “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”, where he designed a giant rampaging lizard that attacked New York City.
Monster movies became his forte in the 1950s and ’60s, and he unleashed a wide variety of various creatures, including the gigantic irradiated octopus of “It Came From Beneath the Sea” (1955), alien spacecraft in “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” (1956), a whole island of beasties including the Cyclops in “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958) and a prehistoric mollusk in “Mysterious Island” (1961).
Harryhausen really put actor Todd Armstrong’s Greek hero through the wringer in “Jason and the Argonauts”, pitting Jason against dangerous harpies, a multi-headed hydra and arguably Harryhausen’s most famous creations, an animated army of skeleton warriors. The swordfight between them and live actors took Harryhausen more than four months to complete.
His final special-effects work was as a producer on 1981’s “Clash of the Titans”, which featured the memorable sea monster the Kraken (an 18-inch model that Harryhausen used) as well as the snake-headed femme fatale Medusa. “I’m grateful that we made pictures that have lasted,” Harryhausen told USA TODAY in 2010. “We tried, like Greek mythology, to make them in the classic manner”. When asked to pick a favorite, he was stumped. “I can’t. The others get jealous.”
In 1992 Tom Hanks presented Harryhausen with a special Oscar for his lifetime of effects work. “Some people say Casablanca or Citizen Kane … I say Jason and the Argonauts is the greatest film ever made,” Hanks said.
To know more about this Master of the visual effects please visit his Official Website: www.rayharryhausen.com. In the images below you will remember some of the most impressive scenes from Ray Harryhausen movies. Enjoy.